The Boss Controls the Calendar

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It’s 5:45 in the afternoon, and the associate is packing up her bag. She’s headed around the corner to meet some friends at that hipster craft beer place.

The partner roars into her office with an assignment. He needs it done before court in the morning. She unpacks and gets back to work.

I think we can agree that she has a job, not a business. She lacks control of her calendar. She is at the beck and call of the business owner. She’s clearly an employee, which brings with it all sorts of good (a steady paycheck) and bad (no beer for her tonight) things.

But wait, we’re getting disrupted too!

Who’s in charge here?

We’re not the associate whose plans are being disrupted by a demanding boss. We’re the demanding boss! At least, that’s what we tell ourselves.

But that’s often not the way our lives work. We, too, are at the beck and call of an outside force.

In fact, we don’t have just one demanding supervisor encroaching on our time; we have dozens.

We’re sitting at the desk when an unexpected call comes through and suddenly we’re putting on a jacket and rushing to the courthouse. Or we’ve settled down in a conference room, ready to tackle a big project, when a client shows up demanding to see us. The task list we so meticulously prepared last night rarely has any checkmarks by the end of the day.

The disruptions to our schedules impact the day-to-day, but they also impact the grand plan. It’s difficult to bring your vision for your business to fruition if you don’t have the time required for thinking, planning, and leading. I see it all the time inside Rosen Institute.

Rosen Institute Masterminds are an important part of how we help lawyers grow their practices. But many of our lawyers can’t regularly attend their Mastermind group meetings.

Our groups organize themselves online using Slack. The group meetings are inevitably preceded by a week, or more, of back and forth about the date for the online video call. There’s the endless discussion of who’s available when, and there’s turmoil as the dates get changed when unexpected conflicts arise.

Inevitably, on the day of the call, more than one member fails to join in, because at the last minute, their schedule for the day got changed. It happens nearly every time.

Truth be told, most lawyers lack control of their calendars. Other players take priority over the calendar entries you added weeks earlier. Our priorities are the items that get rescheduled as the priorities of others get shifted into the moment.

You don’t own a business if you don’t control your calendar

If you don’t control your calendar, then you have a job, not a business. That’s true whether you “own” your own law firm or not. Calendar control is the real test of “ownership.”

Until you get control of your days–your calendar–someone else is calling the shots. Telling yourself that you own your law firm, even as your calendar is spiraling out of control, may just be your way of calming yourself in the face of the miserable job (and the bad terms that come with it) that you’ve accepted. It’s not a happy realization: you have no control, plus no guaranteed paycheck, sick days, or paid vacation. You might be better off as the associate writing the midnight brief.

When you get control of your calendar, you’ve got time to run your business. Until then you’re an employee for a boss (you) who has no idea what’s coming next.

When we lack control of our calendar we lack control of our business. We can’t grow it into the vision we hold in our heads. We can’t have the life we’ve dreamt of. We’re stuck in a cycle of despair, of feeling out of control, and of always lacking the time required to focus on what we want to achieve.

So many lawyers want to shift from working in the business to working on the business.

We want to clarify our vision for the business, and then power toward our objectives. We can see the business we seek to create. It’s there in our mind’s eye. It’s so close we can taste it.

We’ve got a plan. We know what needs to be done. We want to optimize systems and procedures, build out marketing campaigns, and get our team in alignment, working to achieve common goals.

And then we lose control of that infernal calendar.

We get an unexpected call–could be a client, a judge, opposing counsel–and our day turns into something unexpected.

Our days rarely turn out as planned (because someone else is the boss)

Of course, your business is going to be plagued by interruptions. That’s the nature of solving other people’s problems. They can’t always conveniently fit their problems into your available time slots. That’s the nature of the game, and being flexible might win you a good reputation for customer service.

But regular (read: run-of-the-mill) interruptions need to be reserved for those on the front line of customer problem-solving. Those folks were hired to deal with these situations. That’s why they’re employed by the business. In fact, the interruptions aren’t really interruptions–they’re part of the job. They are the work that the business is designed to handle.

But you, the leader, the keeper of the vision, the person charged with assembling a team and providing the resources required to build the business–you can’t be blowing back and forth with the shifting winds. You must stay on task. Your schedule must be under control.

The vision won’t come to fruition until you get control of the calendar. We can’t have what we want until we do the work required to create the business we desire.

Without calendar control, the trajectory is sideways

One effective and potentially very powerful way to develop and implement a vision is to join a mastermind group.

I belonged to a mastermind group in Raleigh, attending meetings for five years. We met for a full day per month, plus a three-day annual retreat and an annual party, plus numerous half-day meetings for special projects. It worked out to about a day and a half per month away from the office for those events–about 10% of my workdays per year.

I never missed a meeting–no one did. We all had to be fully committed to the group–in other words, present–in order to learn to trust each other. By showing up to every single meeting, we built trust. The trust between members encouraged openness, vulnerability, and honesty. We had to legitimately trust each other in order to share our mistakes and absorb lessons from the group. That was when the growth happened. Mastermind groups don’t work for members who can’t regularly attend.

The value I derived from my mastermind group can’t be overstated. It was huge, epic, gigantic. I learned things I would never have learned in any other setting. I rocketed forward as a result of spending time with, and observing, other members. The problems faced by other group members taught me invaluable lessons without having to incur the cost and pain of experiencing the situations myself.

Membership in that mastermind group earned me millions of dollars in revenue.

But I could never have participated if I didn’t have control of my calendar.

Learning, growing, experimenting, thinking: these are all essential elements of growing a business. Your vision won’t come to fruition if you don’t allocate time for personal and professional growth.

What’s your priority? They say that we should look at our calendars to determine what we truly prioritize. The calendar reveals all. It knows where we’re going. It’s a reflection of our priorities, because it shows how we spend our time. The calendar knows whether we’re spending time on today’s crisis, or leadership for the future of our law firm.

Bringing the vision to fruition requires leadership.

Leadership doesn’t happen if we don’t make time for it to happen.

Take charge and be your own boss

Getting control of your law firm means making tough decisions. It means setting and sticking to priorities. It means doing the hard thing when the easy thing is more fun, comfortable, and immediately gratifying.

Taking charge of your time likely means saying no when saying yes might mean a little extra cash right now.

Getting control of your calendar, your time, your future, means:

  • resisting the urge to do all of the initial consultations because you’re the best salesperson
  • letting someone else run down to the courthouse even though you’ll miss being the hero
  • staying focused on the larger projects rather than popping your head into the meeting down the hall because you like reassuring everyone
  • knowing that someone else won’t perform as well as you but also knowing they need the experience if they’re ever going to grow
  • taking less money out (earning less) because you’re investing more in the long-term success of your business

Being the boss–gaining control of your calendar–frees you up to lead.

There is no leadership without calendar control

If there’s no leadership, there’s no business. Without leadership, you have a job. Sure, it’s a nice job, but it’s largely controlled by other people.

The role of the leader is threefold:

1. We are the creator and keeper of the vision.

2. We assemble a great team to bring the vision to life.

3. We make sure the team has the resources they need to do the work.

Creating a vision takes time. Bringing together a team takes more time. Gathering resources for the team to create the vision takes–you guessed it–more time.

If our days are spent leading our team toward the vision, then we’re making progress. If we’re spreading the word, sharing the vision with our team, and bringing new folks along with us, then we’re going to get where we want to go.

But if we’re distracted by the interruptions, dealing with an agenda set by others, and failing to guide our team toward the destination, then we’re lost. We can’t get where we’re going, and we certainly can’t bring along the others, without focus, without determination, and without control of our calendar.

If your calendar belongs to others, if it’s outside of your control right now, then that’s your first challenge. That’s the obstacle you must first overcome.

The boss controls the calendar. The boss gets to decide where we’re going to go. Who’s the boss?

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